Things We Spotted at PAX East!

Of the many delightful things that have happened as a result of Board Gaming growing as a hobby, the proliferation of expos and cons that we can go to and share our passions ranks high among them.

In a couple of months time, we’ll be heading down to the UK Games Expo ourselves, bringing three unique shows with us! And you can get tickets to those shows RIGHT HERE! Had to sneak in a cheap plug, now, didn’t I?

But last week we sent one of our team off to mosey around PAX East and report back on the tabletop presence, with a few games that sparked a bit of joy. Our insider (I’m calling him that because it sounds intriguing and mysterious, and because it’s better than saying “Commercial Manager”) looked at a bunch of games from indie developers and has given us a list of the ones that really grabbed his attention.

This is the summation of that report, distilled into article form, and written happily and not at all through gritted teeth, typing with alarming and furious jealousy…

Gloomhaven: Buttons and Bugs

The world’s most popular legacy game, distilled and shrunk down Rick Moranis style into a solo player adventure!

Set after the events of Gloomhaven and Forgotten Circles, you play as a wannabe hero, looking for fame with a visit to Hail, the Aesther recluse who is considered instrumental in having saved the city countless times. Unfortunately, Hail is grumpy and wants very much to be left alone, so has placed an enchantment on her front door which turns anyone who bothers her into mini-form.

You need to find a way back from this mini realm of lawlessness and self-preservation, finding a new way to get an audience with Hail and convincing her to return you to full size.


One that appears to be a standout from PAX East, this is a card game wherein you take on the role of competing AIs trying to understand the world. You select Protocols to test, pitting them against each other to try and gain that greater understanding.

You play your cards into your Protocols command lines and breach the threshold to Compile them. The first “AI” to Compile all three Protocols and grasp their concepts wins the game.

The reports are that its concepts are fast to learn, but it’s the deeper strategy involved that keeps you coming back to play again. It’s still in development, but it’s apparently a very balanced game as is, which bodes well for its proper release!

Japanese: The Game

A few summers ago, I decided I was going to learn Greek. I signed up to Duolingo and then was immediately besieged by a persistent and sanctimonious green owl who seemed more focused on guilt tripping me for forgetting about him than in helping me learn how to structure a sentence.

Japanese: The Game looks to be a great way to pick up an intricate language, but one that feels increasingly present in Western life and that has a particular attraction to many of us.

With a core deck to teach general vocabulary and basic grammar, and expansion packs that go into language immensely helpful for tourism, and even one that teaches conjugation and advanced grammar, all in the form of a competitive card game, where you’re building sentences to score points, and you’ve got yourself a nice little way to pick up a language, especially if you’re a practical or visual learner.

Shape Invaders

Shades of Air Hockey, Snookers and Crokinole are present in this fun dexterity game that can be played on any tabletop surface.

You’ve got your third of the table, and within that you’ll place your pieces in a formation – said pieces are Aliens, Motherships and Shields. Taking it in turns, you’ll flick your pieces at your opponents, and attempt to knock them off the playing surface. Shields cannot be flicked, however, forcing you to use a little bit of strategy and skill to get your pieces in prime position.

If your mothership is knocked off, you can sacrifice a shield to respawn it and place it back on the table, so it’s not nearly as straightforward as it might sound to eliminate your opponent,


Moving over into the Tabletop RPG space, we’ve got this delightfully spooky Rogue-lite game, where you play as the ghosts of dead characters looking to claw their way out of the spirit world.

A chance to resurrect beloved D&D characters lost in a TPK, death in Ink isn’t the end, it’s actually a benefit, with levels only gained upon death which allows for different approaches to various encounters.

Every time your party does, you and your shadow gain new supernatural powers and unlock forgotten memories of your past life. While it all might sound a bit existential, it’s accompanied by some genuinely adorable artwork depicting ghosts sipping coffee in various Elixir shops owned and operated by what are called – and I could not love this more – Booristas.


Another TTRPG, but this one is considerably less cosy. A standalone shipwreck survival horror based around the Mork Borg system.

You’re playing as poor, unfortunate souls stranded on a far off island. And, as always appears to be the way with far off islands…you aren’t the only ones on it.

You have to survive the elements and fend off starvation, disease and madness. There are rules and mechanics for exposure, building shelter, hunting and gathering, illness, and even weather conditions that will hound your new, hopefully temporary, home.

Mysterious island encounters, a menagerie of monsters and even just the other players, you’ll have to fight with everything you’ve got to survive.

If you want to pick up any of these games, check if they’re in stock at Zatu. Buying them there supports No Rolls Barred via our affiliate partnership. Read more here.